The world's first zero-waste beauty brand

Local beauty product company Ethique is making a global impact by helping people lighten their load on the world.

Over 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles are thrown out annually, with only nine percent of the world’s plastic recycled, and eight million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean each year. 

But switched-on consumers are scrubbing up with Ethique’s solid concentrated bars, which are plastic-free and packaged in certified compostable materials.
To date, the company has saved a huge five million plastic bottles from being made and disposed, and aims to ramp this up to 50 million by 2025. 

Chief executive Brianne West started the company in 2012 as a University of Canterbury Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha science student, with seven compostable products. Growth has been phenomenal, averaging 300 percent for the past three years. 

Ethique’s products, which now include a baby and pet product range, are stocked in 14 countries and will be in 5,000 stores before the end of the year, with a focus on Europe and Asia. 

Intensive work has gone on behind the scenes to get to this stage. “Any business owner or entrepreneur knows that starting and scaling a business is full of challenges. But certainly, creating an ethical one has been very hard,” Brianne says. 

She had to start from scratch to formulate solid products (particularly difficult for face cream and self-tanner), and develop compostable packaging, which is up to 16 times more expensive than plastic. Scaling an unusual product is tough too, but Brianne says “incredibly supportive partners” invested heavily to ensure rapidly growing demand could be kept up with. 

The young entrepreneur wants to see “a bar in every shower”, although there’s a long way to go to educate people. 

“We’re trying to encourage consumers to think that maybe they don’t reach for a bottle, but for the plastic-free bar. And with that, we encourage businesses to think about their packaging.”
Brianne says the company’s recent win at the Westpac Champion Business Awards helped to raise the issue – and solution – within the local business community, which has been very well received. “There is an opportunity for Canterbury businesses to really lead the way in social change. Even if it’s only getting one other business to see the environmental, social – and financial – benefits of zero-waste, that’s a win.”